Why France Accuses Azerbaijan of Destabilizing Its Provinces?

In a surprising turn of international diplomacy, Member of the European Parliament François Bellamy has accused Azerbaijan of actively working to destabilize French territories. Bellamy's accusations come amid rising tensions following recent events in New Caledonia and French Polynesia, which he claims are being influenced by Azerbaijani actions.

Bellamy’s concerns center around Azerbaijan’s alleged interference in New Caledonia and potential actions in French Polynesia. According to the MEP, Azerbaijan has been meddling in New Caledonia's affairs, exacerbating recent riots and instability. Bellamy warns that Azerbaijan is now setting its sights on French Polynesia, hosting an elected Polynesian delegation and fostering discussions on decolonization.

“For how long will the state allow President Ilham Aliyev to work on splitting France?” Bellamy asked rhetorically, underscoring the gravity of the situation in his view.

The controversy reached new heights on May 30, when Baku hosted a conference titled "The Right to Decolonization of French Polynesia – Challenges and Prospects." The event, attended by deputies from French Polynesia, was seen as a significant move by Azerbaijan to support the decolonization movement. French newspaper *Le Figaro* reported that the Polynesian delegation's visit to Baku took place amidst accusations against Azerbaijan for its role in the New Caledonia riots.

In response, the Azerbaijani Embassy in Paris denied any official involvement in the conference, calling for an end to the rhetoric about interference. The Embassy emphasized that the government was not the initiator of the event, positioning it as an independent gathering.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, addressing the riots in New Caledonia, alleged that some independence leaders had struck agreements with Azerbaijan. However, Darmanin did not provide concrete evidence to substantiate these claims. His remarks have been met with a firm rebuttal from the Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which labeled the accusations as baseless.

Political commentator Elkhan Shahinoglu suggests that these tensions stem from what he describes as France’s flawed policies. In an interview with the "Difficult Question" program, he notes  that before Emmanuel Macron's presidency, France and Azerbaijan enjoyed relatively constructive relations. Shahinoglu points to Macron's perceived favoritism towards Armenia, particularly during the Second Karabakh War, as a turning point. Macron’s visit to Armenia, coupled with his lack of a reciprocal visit to Azerbaijan, upset the balance and fueled Azerbaijani discontent.

Shahinoglu also highlights several provocative incidents, including the unauthorized visit by French presidential candidate Valérie Pécresse to Khankendi and anti-Azerbaijani resolutions passed by the French parliament. Acts of vandalism against Azerbaijani cultural symbols in France further strained relations.

In retaliation, Azerbaijan has leveraged its position within the Non-Aligned Movement, which comprises 120 countries, to support the decolonization movements in French territories. The creation of the Baku Platform is seen as an effort to champion the rights of indigenous populations in French overseas territories and Corsica.

Shahinoglu believe that France’s adjustment of its South Caucasus policies could pave the way for a de-escalation of tensions. Given France's influential role within the European Union, fostering cooperative relations with Azerbaijan is in both countries' best interests.

“The deepening alliance between Baku and Ankara is a significant factor,” says Shahinoglu, suggesting that France’s rivalry with Turkey exacerbates its concerns over Azerbaijan’s actions.

At the same time, the accusations against Azerbaijan highlight broader issues of international influence and the legacy of colonialism.

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